AAUP 2001: Monday Morning Live

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Management Strategies

There are some useful pointers you can give to a newly hired press director. But it takes more than a few helpful hints to master what university press directors do eight days a week. Moderator Marlie Wasserman, director of Rutgers University Press, introduced the session with a deceptively light-hearted tone. Her humor underscored the reality that university press management is far from simple. Participating panelists Holly Carver of University of Iowa Press, Peter-John Leone of Indiana University Press, and John Ackerman of Cornell University Press, are living examples that such mastery is only possible after years of university press experience. The length of their respective careers in university publishing is a testament to their love for their work. (Now if only they had more time to dedicate to things like, say, acquisitions editing.)

"Monday Morning Live…" began with a shopping bag full of questions from the audience that the panel chose from randomly. Several of the selected questions dealt with communications issues. Whether between employees, across departments, or as a solution for resolving conflicts, it was clear that communication is an essential—and difficult—element of effective management.

During this discussion, Peter-John Leone offered a summary of a director's job description: to articulate the press's vision. Session participants seemed to agree with him, though, as John Ackerman noted, such communication is challenging. Both audience members and panelists offered "directing" strategies. The suggestions ranged from holding staff meetings to having an open door policy. When discussing management and communication styles the division between small and larger presses was apparent. For example, the director of Iowa (a smaller press) prefers one-on-one communication with her staff while the directors for Cornell and Indiana (larger presses) use a more formalized management structure to communicate with their employees.

The dilemma of micro-management was also discussed. To paraphrase Peter-John Leone's comments, there is a fine line between micro-managing and being interested. It was noted that both directors and staff can create a micro-managed work environment. The over-involved manager is a familiar concept. A director, however, can be micro-managed in turn when people continually ask for solutions to problems without attempting to resolve the problem on their own. While micro-managing is not the worst evil to hit presses since the returns crisis, it is an issue that needs to be addressed when it arises.

A variety of other issues were also discussed, including e-mail as a means of communication; innovations in boosting morale; and the appropriate timing for requests of resource commitments from university administrations. The majority of audience members were themselves directors and their knowledge and insight left little doubt that university presses are in good hands.

by Matthew Brand, Program Assistant, AAUP

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